Update on Joel James:
“Joel came back and practiced some yesterday and he’ll practice some today. He’s been cleared by the doctors to participate in contact activity. We’ll just have to see after practice today if he’s got his conditioning back enough to play in the game. He’s out for like ten days or something like that so it’s going to take him a little while.”
Do you stick with the same plan using the small starting lineup even if there is a risk of getting outrebounded by a bigger N.C. State team?
“I don’t think you really know until the game starts. We’ve been outrebounded two of our last three games. Maybe even all three. It hasn’t been a factor that has just killed us. I thought the two biggest plays in Durham were the two big offensive rebounds that they turned into three’s. We’ll have to see how it’s going during the game and we’ll still go with that same lineup tomorrow. I really foresee the fact that we’ll play two big guys together a little bit more.”
Is it a bigger concern when you look at N.C. State’s frontline compared to other teams?
“If they’ve got two big inside players that take the ball to the basket against big guys then they are really going to take the ball to the basket against little guys. It is something that we’re concerned about.”
How has the team changed mentally after the move to a smaller lineup?
“We played with more of a sense of urgency at Durham. We played with more of a sense of urgency here. I don’t know if we did it as well as we wanted to do it down at Georgia Tech but I think that’s probably the mental side of it more than anything. When you realize that you can’t match up with somebody just standing beside them jumping for the ball perhaps you box out a little bit better. They understand that we have some liabilities for going small but we also have an opportunity to cause some matchup problems with them on the other end.”
Has having to play differently from your traditional style forced you out of your comfort zone?
“Poor play yanks me out of my comfort zone is probably the better way to put it. I’m comfortable with it, I really am. I’d like to get the basketball inside and score inside more and have a better balance but the fact of the matter is that we don’t have that kind of player right now. Whether I’m comfortable with it or not you’ve got to put guys out there that give you the best chance to win. Dexter's shot was not going in as much as he wanted it to or we wanted it to. Marcus’s shot was not going in as much as he wanted it to or we wanted it to. We weren’t getting as much offense out of Desmond. Joel, the same thing. It is a game where the score counts and so we tried to figure out a way to get more scoring in there. We went this way and I’m still not comfortable with part of it, there’s no question.
"But I think it gives us the best chance to be successful. And it has helped. Dexter’s play has been better the last three games too. With Joel, Brice and Desmond we haven’t had enough time or they don’t have enough experience to move out of there sometimes so they sort of hang around down low too much and that clogs things up a little bit too. When P.J. is out there he stretches the defense so it opens it up perhaps for some other guys too. I’m not giving up on our big guys I can tell you that because they are going to get great opportunities from now until the day they put me under the ground to be players.”
Have you seen any improvement with P.J. Hairston on the defensive end of the floor?
“He was a good defensive player last year, too, though. He was probably behind [Tyler Zeller] and James Michael [McAdoo] in taking charges on our team last year. I think he was just so inconsistent in every area of the game last year. He’s gotten more consistent with it this year. Offensively, he’s had some struggles. Against Maryland he’s one for eight and against Georgia Tech he’s one for seven. But he’s done some other things that have allowed me to keep him in the lineup probably more consistently than he did last year.”
Is there a bit of an extra drive to win at home in the Smith Center against State compared to other teams due to your record against the Wolfpack?
“There’s no question I hate to lose against everybody but especially somebody that just had us by 28 last game. Everyone says it’s a great comeback but I don’t care about that they had us by 28. When you go down the stretch you forget about your own personal things. You treat everybody as your opponent for that day. And I really believe that. My problem is that I had some buddies I was in high school with that ended up going to State so we had a big rivalry amongst us. I think once you get down to the last five or six games of the season you better be concentrating on that game and what’s important during that game.”
Do you put a lot of stock in positioning your team in the top four of the ACC in preparation for the ACC tournament?
“We haven’t said anything about it to our team yet and there’s still five games to go. I think there’s probably seven or eight teams that still have a chance to be in the top four would be my guess. We don’t say anything like that to the team we’re focusing on playing State tomorrow and trying to play that game.”
How do you plan on matching up with N.C. State’s frontline?
“Well, the starting group will be P.J. on C.J. [Leslie].”
What’s the key to limiting Lorenzo Brown in this game after his big performance against UNC in Raleigh?
“To me the problem over there was our offense. We were so bad offensively that we took bad shots and turnovers and that led to run outs for them. We didn’t do a good job in transition defense but if you take terrible shots and turn it over there’s no team that’s going to play defensive transition very well. We’ve got to do a better job offensively and that in itself will help us on the defensive end too. But Lorenzo’s a load. We’ve got some really good guards in this league. There’s a bunch of really good guards, you can go down the line.”